At the risk of revealing my completely neurotic taste in music to the world, here is my best-of for 2021. This was tricky, as there are probably 50 or so records I considered that didn’t make the list, but I think these are all albums that will fill a very specific niche in my listening  habits for years, not just this year. From musicians I’ve been following since day one to new discoveries I somehow slept on, this is what I’ve been spinning on repeat every since it came out.

10. Wolves in the Throne Room – Primordial Arcana (Relapse Records)

The new Wolves in the Throne Room is really, really good. The only reason this isn’t at the top of my list is because  a lot of it is more atmospheric mood music. So, while it’s not as much of a ripping black metal opus, it’s incredibly well-crafted, from the compositions to the cover art. Older albums might get your head banging more, but they’re definitely continuing to grow as musicians.

Follow the band here. 

9. Harakiri for the Sky – Maer (AOP Records)

If taken alone as a first album from a band, Maer might be at the top of my list. The only reason it isn’t is because I honestly like 2018’s Arson a bit better. However, while this one might not be as catchy or as punishing, it definitely moves their music to the next level and adds a lot to their discography.

Follow the band here. 

8. Frozen Soul – Crypt of Ice (Century Media)

Although I’m new to this band, I don’t see how it could possibly not make the top ten list. Even if you’re not a huge death metal fan, this record is so catchy, classic, and crushingly groovy that all fans of heavy music should check it out. Plus, they’re from Texas with a snow/cold theme; you can’t beat that irony.

 

Follow the band here. 

7. Chvrches – Screen Violence (EMI Records / Glassnote Records)

While this one may stand out like a sore thumb from my other choices, I’ve always been a big fan of Chvrches. Most bubblegum pop is not my thing, but the way they blend poetic lyrics and art with really impressive melody and production just gets me. I really liked Screen Violence, even more than I liked Love is Dead. It felt like a callback to their earlier works, and it’s catchy as hell.

Follow the band here. 

6. Militarie Gun – All Roads Lead to the Gunn II (Audiotree)

I used to live in Richmond, VA, where I was constantly surrounded by some of the best punk out there. I am a bigger metal fan, so sometimes, I took it for granted. Now, when I hear bands like Militarie Gun, I get really ex excited about the future of melodic hardcore punk and just how damn good it sounds. This album works when you want to sing along to something poppy and when you want to listen to something heavy and aggressive.

Follow the band here. 

5. Emma Ruth Rundle – Engine of Hell (Sargent House)

A lot of neurodivergent people have a “depression artist” they listen to to sort of wallow in the sadness but heal at the same time. For me, that’s Emma Ruth Rundle. She’s one of my favorite artists of all time, and on this record, she gets real and raw with vocals mixed in the front and beautiful piano. Let sad girl winter commence with this soundtrack.

Follow her here. 

4. Portrayal of Guilt – CHRISTFUCKER (Run for Cover Records)

I haven’t felt this special way about a band since I discovered Pig Destroyer back in high school. They blend hardcore, grindcore, metal, and punk in a style that somehow doesn’t sacrifice groove or artistic sensibilities, so I honestly think the Pig Destroyer comparison is warranted. Their catchy, groovy riffs and all-out, ripping segues are enough to hold your attention for numerous listens, and this is their best record yet.

Follow the band here. 

3. Section H8 – Welcome to the Nightmare (Flatspot Records)

This is another surprise record that I never thought I’d be putting into a top-ten list, not because this band aren’t great, but just because I tend to listen to things like death, doom, and black metal much more than hardcore. But this album is just so much fun. The same way Militarie Gun are great when you want something catchy or something heavy, Section H8 are perfect when you’re legitimately angry and need a release, and when you’re just trying to get hype. I don’t think the band consider themselves crossover so much as straight-ahead hardcore, but there are some seriously metallic riffs on this release, too.

Follow the band here. 

2. Blackwater Holylight – Silence Motion (RidingEasy Records)

I almost feel like it’s cliche that I like this band so much, since they kind of combine all my favorite things about doom and classic metal with black and death metal in a way that is femme and pretty as well as heavy. But I can’t help having them at number two; the music is just that good and completely stands alone without any of that pretense that us music writers are known for. It’s also just really good rock ‘n’ roll.

Follow the band here.

1. Spectral Wound – A Diabolical Thirst (Profound Lore Records)

Spectral Wound are the most exciting band I’ve heard all year; I’ll just come out and say it. This record has it all. Contradictions in terms seem to be the theme of this best-of list, and it’s as gritty and heavy as it is melodic and powerful. It feels like it surpasses subgenres and specific emotions to just be a pure release and great example of a metal record. And the cool imagery and beer theme doesn’t hurt, either.

Follow the band here. 

Featured Image courtesy of Spectral Voice

Author

Addison is reviews and online news editor for New Noise. She specializes in metal, queer issues, and dog cuddles.

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